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Talking Tactics

Better crosses can help Watford climb higher

Adrian Clarke 8 Jul 2019
Jose Holebas, Watford

Adrian Clarke says Javi Gracia will be keen for his full-backs to be more consistent with their deliveries

Adrian Clarke looks at key areas where each Premier League club can improve ahead of the 2019/20 season.


Watford made terrific progress under Javi Gracia in 2018/19 and reached the FA Cup final. They will now be eager to take further forward steps this season.

It is hard to find many faults with a side that improved so much, but I do feel the Hornets lack quality in wide areas.

With their 4-2-2-2 formation, Watford usually had two strikers attacking crosses but it is a narrow system and there is an issue with service to those forwards.

The inverted wide men Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes are rarely asked to stretch play by hugging the touchline.

This puts an onus on both full-backs to get forward, which they do, but their end product was below par last season.

Watford produced the fewest accurate crosses from open play.

Fewest successful open-play crosses
2018/19 Total
Watford 64
Man Utd 74
Cardiff 77
West Ham 77
Crystal Palace 79

Left-back Jose Holebas and right-backs Kiko Femenia and Daryl Janmaat were the Hornets' most prolific crossers from open play in 2018/19.

But they were only ranked eighth and joint-ninth for chances created in open play among Watford players. So if Gracia persists with 4-2-2-2 he will certainly look for better end product from the wings.

Watford full-backs in open play
2018/19 Femenia Holebas Janmaat
Key passes 11 10 10
Club rank 8th 9th 9th
Crosses 56 62 60
Club rank 3rd 1st 2nd

It will be interesting to see whether new signing Craig Dawson is used as a centre-back or full-back.

He played for many years as a right-back for West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League and is capable of whipping in dangerous crosses.

Gracia may also address the lack of natural wingers in his squad, as there is not an abundance of specialists in this area.

Competition for the captain

Troy Deeney remains Watford's main man in attack.

The tricky Gerard Deulofeu and pacy Andre Gray are good foils for their captain, but Deeney's physical presence and fighting spirit are still integral to the side's style of play.

This summer Gracia may opt to give the 31-year-old more competition by recruiting a centre-forward with similar attributes.

In previous seasons the back-ups to Deeney have failed to deliver, and he has averaged 34 appearances per season over the last four Premier League campaigns.

To keep him fresh and in peak condition, it makes sense for Watford to bring in somebody who can offer reliable cover from time to time.

Tomorrow: Clarke on West Ham

See: Adrian Clarke on how each club can improve

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